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Many people, especially the elderly, are lonely. Some actually visit their hairdresser and have their hair done just to have someone to talk to (many of the hairdressers I trained to sell told me this), or they will corner someone in the supermarket or post office to talk “at” them. And have you ever heard the tired, sad utterances of single women who “need a man” because they’re so lonely? Talk about setting yourself up for disappointment – what a price to pay! What a risk to take. And some of the loneliest people are married. What to do?

My mom was in the hospital and constantly surrounded by visitors and well-wishers. There was a woman in the bed next to hers, and I chatted with her. She complained that it was “unfair” that my mom had so many visitors, while she had none. I asked her what her lifestyle was. She had a cat and pretty much kept to herself, she said. So I told her about my mom: Although money was tight, my mom regularly visited people in the hospital, gave avocado pears to poor people, had poor people who were visiting their loved ones in hospital stay in her home for free. These visitors she received were merely reciprocating.

Here are eight useful pointers:

  1. Join a group of senior citizens who go on local tours and outings, usually arranged by Seniors’ Centres and usually quite affordable. Take a class with other seniors.
  2. Ladies can join the Red Hatters and men can join a Masonic Lodge. Join a church, volunteer to work in a hospital Thrift Store, visit people in the hospital. Be a friend to have a friend. Join a band! Teach a young person to fix his car.
  3. Don’t rely on your adult children. Many, for various reasons, will not want a relationship with you, may be influenced by their spouses, or may simply be selfish and uncaring. With no expectations, you won’t be disappointed. Create your life – don’t wait for others to do so.
  4. Be a good neighbour, walk someone’s dog, be friendly, teach your neighbour to bake a cake or arrange flowers. Associate with positive, optimistic people.
  5. Be a good friend to yourself; you’re born alone and you will die alone, and we need to come to terms with ourselves, to forgive ourselves, to accept and like ourselves, to find things that we are proud of.
  6. Read Dale Carnegie’s amazing book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” It has some excellent ideas and truths.
  7. Get a dog. Many elderly people tell me that the companionship, the unconditional love they enjoy from their pets, is a great boost to their mood and that they feel that no person could do more.
  8. Start your own business. You’ll be amazed how much you can learn, how many wonderful people you can meet in that way. But don’t risk more money than you can afford to lose.

WARNING: Reminiscing, thinking about the past, reading old letters, looking through old photo albums, can make one sad. Plan for your day, your week, next week, your future. Get busy. Set goals. When we focus on helping others, even in a small way, we forget our aches and pains and sorrows more easily. I have suffered from depression all my life (I am now thankfully on medication that takes care of it) – I know whereof I speak.

Robin Elliott

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